The 5 Elements of the wild craft
by jessi arnn
The very way in which the Founding Principles of Wild Thorn Hollow defines the Wild Craft implies that ours is a path that will always be open for interpretation, and likely will be in a continuous state of evolution. As with all things in the Craft, exactly how this path plays out will be based on the various adaptations of its individual followers.
For some of us, though, even beginning to blaze our own trail and create our own definitions is most easily tackled when we have a starting point. Largely for my own benefit, but also for those who take an interest in learning what I have to share, I felt that taking a look at what I identify as the major components of the Wild Craft would be worthwhile. As I view the Wild Craft as a very nature-oriented path, what better way to delve deeper into it than by aligning some of its characteristics with each of the five elements? This article seeks to identify predominant themes of the path as I see it, as they relate to each of the elements. The 5 Elements study program I plan to develop will correlate with each of these elements, studying concepts falling into each category from the standpoint of the specific Wild Craft flavor. After giving it some thought and consideration, I feel like I have come up with some defining characteristics that will work for at least myself, and hopefully some others, as they seek to develop their wild paths. The Spirit characteristics of the Wild Craft that I have defined are that it is Spiritual, Panentheistic, and Reverent. The Earth characteristics are that it is Natural, Practical, and Physical. The Air characteristics of the path are that it is Creative, Experimental, and Stimulating. The Fire traits are that it is Ecstatic, Passionate, and Transformative. And the Water characteristics are that it is Intuitive, Nurturing, and Mysterious. When you combine the characteristics outlined under each element, bringing the 5 elements together, you discover a path that is far more free-spirited and personal that it is structured and ceremonial, and that is every bit as unique and adaptable as Wild Thorn Hollow is meant to be.
Keep in mind that this is simply my own perspective - not doctrine, and not "the way" to view our path. I hope this will provide for a helpful jumping off point for myself, and a helpful beginning to a journey for those who wish to make use of it. Hopefully, though, each individual who makes use of this information will take something unique from it, and create something unique with it.
Spiritual, Panentheistic, Reverent
There will always be the camp that argues that Witchcraft, when separated from Wicca, is solely the practice of folk magic, with no faith attached. I have never been able to accept this classification. I personally feel that while it is possible for someone to practice a type of folk magic separate from faith, or paired with any other faith for that matter, and call it Witchcraft, to say that stand-alone Witchcraft is inherently void of any faith is very misguided. I believe that a spiritual thread naturally runs through the Craft, though it may be one that bends and weaves alongside the winding path of the individual practitioner. Granted, here in Wild Thorn Hollow, we are open to Pagans who would not necessarily self-identify as Witches, and we often utilize the term "Wild Craft" to express this. Nonetheless…whether you prefer to label your path Wild Witchcraft, Wild Craft, or simply Wild Thorn Hollow…all of these would fall under the umbrella of Paganism…and Paganism is inherently spiritual. That's what it is. Pagan paths are paths that have roots in pre-Christian faith, and we as Pagans in the Hollow approach our path from a spiritual standpoint. To my way of thinking, our magic is sacred and comes from the divine, and the practice of a nature-based magical system will often call the practitioner down a road where the recognition of "spirit" becomes undeniable.
Exactly how this "spirit" is defined may be open for debate and individual personalization. This brings me to another characteristic of the Wild Craft as I see it. To me, the Wild Craft is panentheistic. A pantheistic viewpoint is one that posits that the divine resides and is entirely contained within the natural world…so deity can be found in the rocks, the trees, the plants, the animals, each one of us, etc. There is certainly room for this view within the Wild Craft, but my personal view has always been more panentheistic. This suggests that the divine does permeate all of the natural world, but also expands beyond it, and has an existence that can be separated from it. Therefore, in theory, the death of the natural world would not necessarily mean the death of the divine. When it comes to defining deity more specifically beyond these concepts, most followers of the Wild Craft will tend to take on some form of polytheistic viewpoint, but this is much more open to interpretation on the individual level.
Regardless of exactly how each of us defines deity, when we begin to follow a path that is deeply tied to nature, and even goes so far as to see the Great Spirit pulsating with life within it, this naturally affects our attitudes and outlooks. This is why I personally would describe the Wild Craft as reverent. "Going wild" means listening to our own primal hearts, hearing the untamed calls of nature, and realizing that we are all intertwined. When we begin to recognize ourselves and the world around us as all being connected by a divine thread, it begins to change the way that we interact with ourselves, and with the world. We begin acting with more respect toward the elements of day-to-day life and to our environment, and begin showing more gratitude toward the divine presence in our lives. The ways in which we express our reverence may be wide, varied, and even a little off the wall at times. We are "wild" after all! But I personally feel that a reverent heart is a common trait of a wild witch.
Natural, Practical, Physical
Possibly more than anything else, I feel that the Wild Craft is deeply connected to and influenced by nature. Our observances are tied to the rhythms of nature, we attempt to attune our lives to its cycles, and even our deities often reflect the various aspects of nature. We go beyond the typical picturesque image of "nature" to recognize and revere all of its many faces - beautiful and harrowing, light and dark, and wholly embrace this balance in our practice, in our magic, and in the gods we honor and work with. Just as Mother Nature may bring about bounty, destruction, and everything in between, a wild witch will embrace his/her own natural strength and may help, heal and bless, or banish , deflect and curse, depending upon circumstance and need. Our observances celebrate life as well as death, and acknowledge our place within a whole, and a follower of a wild path will find equal beauty in a sun-drenched pasture, a darkly moonlight grove, a lightning-charged storm, or the ice-coated limbs of a bare tree.
Even beyond this, I believe that followers of a wild path are more likely to take a natural approach to their practice. This doesn't just mean that they seek out the wild untamed places of the world in order to do their work, or that they take the "all natural" approach in everything they do in life from cooking to cleaning…though these things may certainly be true of them. Beyond this, to me taking a natural approach means that you make your practice a natural part of your everyday life, wherever you are. Yes, it's true that you may find many a wild witch barefoot on the beach, wandering deep into the woods, or dancing in a wide open field if given the choice. However, I also believe that you will find wild witches who are working with their surroundings and making their Craft perfectly at home in the cities and the suburbs…in their homes, backyards, community gardens, and neighborhood parks.
This concept gets to the heart of what makes the Wild Craft so practical. While we all may enjoy and employ a little ceremony from time to time, a wild witch would never allow the desire for ceremony to become a prohibitive need on his or her path. Followers of a wild path will make their magic and honor their Gods and the Great Spirit whenever and wherever they are - finding creative ways to make use of what is at their disposal - rather than waiting for the stars to align just right for their working, or attempting to gather up the perfect set of tools and trappings. Again - in every moment of every day, the Craft is a thread that weaves itself through the fabric of the life of a follower, and this makes it a path very closely akin to branches such as green/garden witchery, hedge craft, and hearth/kitchen witchery…all paths with a very practical core.
As with most things practical, I view the wild craft to be a very hands-on path. This, paired with the very earth-centered focus that also flows through the currents of our path, makes for a path that is perhaps more "physical" than many other magical paths. Followers of the Wild Craft are very rooted in and connected to this world - and even our magic tends to keep us connected to it, as we tend to turn to ingredients from the earth as many of our magical building blocks. We get our hands dirty. We dig in the dirt to plant and harvest our own magical ingredients, and to give reverence to the Great Spirit, and we put magic into the food we cook and the things we make. Though we may travel between the worlds and engage in more mystical realms, our path always comes back to the here and now, and a central focus of our spirituality is about what we can do for the world we live on and the beings we share it with.
Creative, Experimental, Stimulating
Air is the element of creativity and intellect, and the wild craft is nothing if not the creative path of the a thinker. One of the key characteristics of a wild path is that it is not bound by rules and prescribed methods. Rather, it leads the follower down a road to experimentation and discovery, where he/she will try new and different approaches, keeping what works for him/her and adjusting what doesn't, until a completely unique and personalized path has emerged. There is no guide book. We may find teachers and mentors, and we may share ideas, but at the end of the day, there is no one there to tell you how it is done. You must think for yourself, learn for yourself, and develop your own ideas and interests. This is not a path for sheep! Expect you put your mind to work!
I believe that the wild craft is a path that recognizes the sacredness of creation…not just "creation" in the procreative sense, but also in terms of the simple act of personal expression through creating…something! The concept of awen (Welsh) or imbas (Irish) refers to the notion of divine inspiration, and many who embrace the concept of awen also embrace the notion that what we create as a result of that divine inspiration is a product of the gods working through us, and therefore divine itself. The wild craft calls those who wander down its path to set self-judgment aside, and learn to embrace their own personal creativity as a part of their spirituality…and let that creativity fuel their approach to magic and worship.
As it logically follows from a path that is experimental and creative, the wild craft is a path that avoids stagnation by trying new methods and ideas when old approaches become too stale. This keeps the path stimulating and ever-evolving. The way I see it, if your spirituality and your path don't excite you -- whether the excitement comes from feeling uplifted, inspired, intimidated you, or simply made to think on the deeper issues -- then you need to change something. Your path should be what fuels you to keep moving forward with your own spiritual growth and development, even if it means that your ideas are constantly changing to reflect new information and experiences.
Ecstatic, Passionate, Transformative
As a Sagittarian and a fire sign, on a personal level I probably get most excited about some of the fire characteristics of the wild craft. So often, the word "wild" as a descriptor of a Pagan path calls to mind the wilds of nature. We picture wild witches trailing off into wild, tangled places deep in the woods, gathering up herbs and flowers to use in their workings, building altars with the items they find, and working with the spirits of nature. This is all possibly true of plenty of wild witches. To me though, the "wild" of our path refers just and much and just as importantly to our own inner wildness. It speaks to the deeply embedded primal spirit within us that allows - when we let it - to dance in a frenzy around a ritual fire, raising our voices to the moon, completely free and unencumbered with a self-conscious thought.
The way that I personally categorize it, the fire characteristics of the wild craft are those that most closely relate to its Shamanic character - largely because of the interpretation above of one of the meanings behind the "wild" part of our path. Ecstatic practices within the craft typically refer to altered states of consciousness - trance, journeying, leaving the body, opening the body to be used by other spirits and energies, and opening ourselves up to communication and interaction with beings of other planes. In my experience, these are some of the most transformative experiences you will ever have on your path, and you will never feel closer to deity than when you let go of your guard and allow yourself to have them.
Fire transforms. It consumes and eliminates what was there and makes way for something entirely new. Its surface-level destructive nature leaves behind the fertile foundation for new growth. This is what our path should do for us. On occasion, your spirituality should strip you down, burning away what needs to be removed, and making way for a rebirth. If we will allow it to, by embracing our inner wildness and heeding the call of our primal souls, this is what I believe a wild path will do. It will carry us through a constant, transformative process of spiritual birth, death, and rebirth.
Walking a wild path requires a bit of a passionate heart and a fiery spirit. This isn't a path that is smoothly paved and laid out before us, creating a smooth ride of spirituality by association. This is a path that, in many ways, we must carve out with our own footsteps - forging ahead and creating something unique and personal, that didn't exist before. Not only must we be passionate about our spirituality from the onset in order to have the fortitude for this work, and in order to withstand the twists and turns that will be thrown at us along the way, but also by virtue of working hard to form a path of our own, we will become more passionate about the continued pursuit of it, because we will have a certain level of ownership in our paths that followers of other faiths rarely experience.
Intuitive, Nurturing, Mysterious
Water associates with the Underworld and that which lies hidden beneath the surface. It is the element of mystery, and on a personal level, water beckons me to plunge into the unknown and discover what is yet unknown to me. Whether we view it in metaphorical terms as what lies hidden beneath the surface of the water, or as what is around the next bend of a rough and rambling path into a deep and undiscovered wood, the wild craft is a path that should intrigue us and call us to keep discovering, and then keep pushing to discover even more. A wild path is about being in pursuit of "The Mysteries," and letting yourself be guided in the journey by nature, the gods, and the people and spirits you encounter along the way.
In many ways, the wild craft is a deeply intuitive path. It is about knowing what lies within yourself, and being able to express that in terms of your spirituality. It is about learning - through trial and error, experiment and research - what will work for you, acknowledging that as long as it works you can't be wrong, and not worrying about what anyone else thinks about what works for you. Walking a wild path means going with your gut and listening to that little voice in your head, and placing far more stock into that than you do the whys and hows that are thrown at you by others. Remember, our path is unique. Let others walk theirs, while you focus on defining your own.
All of this - the whole of your spirituality - is intended to nurture your own soul. That is not intended to imply that it will always be about warm and fuzzy feelings. Sometimes what our souls need to heal, learn, and grow can be quite grueling. In the end, though, it should all contribute to a better understanding of the self and a deeper sense of connection with the whole. I believe the wild craft to be a nurturing path because it calls us to push ourselves and to This path should be one that nourishes and enriches us. If the day comes when it doesn't, the day has come to move on.